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Sample text

In asserting the "domination" of our culture by the machine, I do not mean to affirm here any totalizing theory of technology, but rather to observe in a variety of instances its pervasive influence on our culture. Let me pause a moment over that last word, "culture": My subjects range from the high end of visual and literary culture, in which the individual aesthetic sensibility captures our attention; to photography, a potentially mass form practiced by individual personalities who may or may not think of themselves as "artists"; to popular culture, the product, usually, of a corporate imagination that succeeds in capturing our collective attention.

But the point was not simply to bring "science and the modern" into art; the point, as Strand and others saw it, was to create almost a new way of seeing and knowing the world. Thus, Strand urged the destruction of the "wholly fictitious wall of antagonism" between science and expression (151). In its most extreme form, the work of industrial construction was itself viewed as the highest art, with the engineer as the new artist. It was in this spirit that a writer in the avant-garde magazine, The Soil, declared, in 1916, "I have already turned from an Art Exhibition to marvel at the co-ordination and the real art of a steam shovel, ripping out great handfuls of boulders and earth .

Taking this broad and variable sense of the word "technology"as thing, as idea, as abstractionI explore in this volume some ways that American culture has responded to the machine in the twentieth century. We have all, throughout the twentieth century, been born "after the machine": we live in a culture dominated, for better or worse (or both) by technology, and our cultural forms are embedded in its many significations. In asserting the "domination" of our culture by the machine, I do not mean to affirm here any totalizing theory of technology, but rather to observe in a variety of instances its pervasive influence on our culture.

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